Breaking up is hard to do...but in business relationships, it's nearly unavoidable.
If the relationship between you and your managed IT service provider has been shaky and you're trying to decide if things are worth salvaging, here are some surefire signals that it's time to say "it's not you, it's...no wait, it's definitely you".
POOR COMMUNICATION AND FOLLOW-UP
Lack of communication is a deal-breaker for any vendor in our book. Doubly so for managed IT providers who hold your entire business' infrastructure in their hands.
If you ask multiple times for something before it gets done, can't get a call or email back within a reasonable time, are rarely sure about the status of a project or support ticket, are the one telling them about major problems, and get different answers to the same question depending on who you talk to, that's a solid sign to start looking elsewhere.
Your managed IT provider should make sure you don't have to put in any more effort than is necessary.
Ask a question, you should get an answer without having to ask twice. Put in a support ticket, and you should get a quick response and resolution updates. You should feel confident that you'll be kept up to date on work statuses. And you definitely shouldn't be the one alerting your provider to a major issue - with proper proactive services they should know long before you do.
SLOW, BUGGY COMPUTERS OR NETWORK SERVICES
Even with managed IT support, are you constantly noticing the same issues popping up? Are your computers, phones, internet service, etc unreliable and causing downtime? Does important software crash while you're working? Does it seem like you're calling for help more than doing your actual job?
These are all clear signs that you aren't getting what you're paying for. IT's first priority should be to make sure you are working on reliable, secure, and fast devices that support your operations.
Unplanned outages, downtime, and slow devices are unacceptable in a world where businesses rely on their technology.
This can be a tough area to audit without security knowledge. If your IT provider isn't implementing adequate security, how are you supposed to know unless something goes wrong?
A few telltale signs here:
- You notice frequent popups, website redirects, unwanted toolbars, and/or error messages when you're working online. This suggests a lack of proper security measures and anti-virus and -malware protections, and poor monitoring for these issues.
- If they are supposed to be managing your email, you notice a lot of spam, scam, and phishing emails making it to your inbox. A proper email security solution will ensure that the majority of these are filtered before they ever reach your eyes.
- You get reminders and popups on your computer to update your anti-virus/malware programs, operating system, internet browser, and other software. This is a sign that your IT provider is not keeping up to date with these, which could open your device up to bugs, infections, and other security risks that come with outdated programs.
SLOW RESPONSE TIMES TO ISSUES
Unless you've indicated it's a minor problem, IT support should be right there when you need them. Businesses rely on their technology for just about every operational need nowadays.
Not being able to access your email, missing important files, software crashing, and internet service issues can easily bring a company to a halt.
A good managed IT provider knows this, and will respond accordingly. Quality managed service providers will have a service level agreement (SLA) that details their guaranteed response times based on the severity of a problem. Ensure their response guarantees are acceptable to you, and that they're adhering to these standards.
INSUFFICIENT OR POORLY-MANAGED BACKUPS AND DATA
Backups are your insurance against data loss. Without them, should something happen such as a natural disaster or ransomware infection, you've lost weeks, months, even years of your business.
Best backup and continuity practices are to backup both on- and off-site. You should have both a local backup, such as on a physical server, hard drives, flash drives, etc; and a copy elsewhere such as in a cloud service. This will ensure that if, for example, your office building floods and destroys the physical copies you'll still have that data.
Backups should also be run regularly. This will vary depending on your business. Think about how much data you could survive without if it disappeared - one hour's worth, one day, one week? Your backup schedule should take this into consideration.
This is another area that can be tough to audit without experience. If you suspect your backups aren't sufficiently protecting you from data loss, we recommend finding an outside consultant to test them. We've often found that backups were corrupted, not running on the needed schedule, or severely outdated which is extremely risky for any business. The worst time to find out there's something wrong with your backups is when you need them!
[Get our Data Security and Protection Checklist to perform an easy audit of your current backup and data situation]
LACK OF STRATEGY OR GUIDANCE
Do you only ever speak with your IT provider when there's an issue? If so, that's an issue!
A true managed IT service provides you with consulting and recommendations, not just fixes when something breaks.
Your provider should keep a pulse on your business goals and find ways they can help you reach them.
We aren't just trying to sell you more! Technology is always changing, and new products and services may offer a better solution than your current setup. It's our job to know about, test, and recommend things that we think are valuable for your business.
We're always looking for ways to help make you more successful. In a partnered business relationship, the better your company is doing, the better it is for us.
Your IT provider should be invested in your success, and providing strategy and guidance towards your goals is beneficial for everyone.
YOU'VE OUTGROWN THE IT PROVIDER
Sometimes you just outgrow a business relationship, even when the service has been great in the past.
This often happens when your company was still small, and you found a similarly small IT provider to help support you. This worked out great for a while. But then your company grew and now you have 20 employees and a much more complicated infrastructure that requires a higher level of support. That small IT provider can't keep up anymore and falls behind with maintenance. In this case, it's definitely time to move on.
Some signs that you've outgrown your provider are:
- They are on a drastically different business level than you - you have a large office and 50 computers, and they have one employee
- They don't offer much or anything in the way of contracts, service level agreements, or documentation
- You notice it's become more difficult to get problems resolved in an acceptable time frame, and/or to reach your provider when needed
- Standard business technology services - backups, disaster recovery plans, cloud implementation, mobile device management, network audits, consulting - aren't available or being done properly through your current IT company
- They try to supplement their inadequate services by enlisting a client's staff member as a "helper" - we've seen plenty of well-meaning office managers and admins roped into working on issues themselves because the IT support company can't keep up
HOW TO CHANGE PROVIDERS WITH MINIMAL ISSUES
Figure out what needs to change
A new provider won't help anything if they operate just like the one you're leaving!
Take the time to figure out what you want to get out of the new relationship. This doesn't need to be so specific that you're listing computer brands you want to use. It should focus on more high-level wants like your budget, desired response times, the services they offer, if they specialize in your industry or act as a generalist, if they can scale with your company, and what their consulting services entail.
Alternately, you can simply write out a pros and cons list regarding your current support provider. What do you like and dislike about your service now?
While you may not get 100% of your wants in a new provider, you'll gain a better understanding of what traits to look out for and what's most important to you in a new support company.
Refer to your contract if needed
If you're under contract with your current IT provider, find out what needs to happen to exit.
Many times there are clauses that will allow you to exit early without penalty if service agreements aren't met. If your provider has truly been slacking here, this will be the smoothest route.
If you don't have a contractually approved reason to exit, things could be a little trickier. You can leave and incur whatever penalties apply, or you can try to negotiate with the company.
Pay attention to any details in your contract about hardware rights. Many times companies do not actually own their devices, but are leasing them from their IT provider. Review similar details about how the IT company will remove their software from your devices as well.
Consider all the costs
Switching providers isn't as easy as just clicking a button.
If your current contract is broken, there may be costs incurred. You may lose all or some of your computers, servers, phones, etc. You may have additional upfront costs with a new provider. The new company may be more expensive. There may be downtime during the switch. And your company's executives will spend time searching for and meeting with new potential providers.
Be sure to factor these costs into your budget and decision to move.
Utilize your new provider to assist
Once you've found your new IT provider, ideally they'll help you transition smoothly.
Quality companies want to ensure their new customers are as satisfied as possible to start the relationship on a good note. Often they will meet with the former IT company to get details about your infrastructure and other technology vendors. They should handle much of the needed work for you once they're involved in the moving process.
Don't forget to involve your staff
Your staff should be informed at every step of this process! Let them know when you're looking for a new company, when you've found someone, what the proper procedures are for interacting with both IT companies during the transition, and what sorts of issues the new company can help with.
We recommend getting their feedback on both the old and new companies. They can often alert you to issues you hadn't noticed with the former provider, and let you know what they would appreciate in a new one. Ask for their thoughts on the new provider after a few weeks with them. Involving your team is both helpful for you and makes them feel included.
Ready for a new IT relationship? We'll never give you up, let you down, or run around and desert you 💘
Get in touch and let's see where this thing goes!